MCAG Workshops ask public input on how to spend transit funds

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 9, 2013 

— The Merced County Association of Governments visited Los Banos on Tuesday in a continuing effort to determine how it will spend transportation funds over the next 27 years.

Matt Fell, the MCAG's transportation manager, held a workshop for public input on the Regional Transportation Plan, which will determine what projects receive funding priority through 2040. The plan, in its beginning stages, is based on growth patterns in the county, state goals and community input.

Fell held a workshop in Los Banos and other parts of the county in April that asked residents their preferences on how to spend transportation dollars.

"Over the summer, we did a lot of computer modeling and putting together scenarios based on that first round," Fell said. "Where we are now is we're talking about these scenario options."

Fell asked those attending to choose among projects such as road maintenance and construction, expanding bus service and increasing bike and walking paths. He asked if there is a desire for cleaner air, less traffic congestion, having less farmland development and encouraging less driving.

Fell said the MCAG's board of directors — representatives from the six cities in the county and the Board of Supervisors — will weigh the public input and approve a plan by March.

Fell said the state requires that the MCAG's regional plan include a component addressing countywide greenhouse gas emissions. The penalty for not doing so could be California withholding transportation dollars, Fell said.

Les Palocsay said gas mileage has risen in the past few years, causing greenhouse gases to decline. He asked if Fell included that in his calculation. Fell responded that the scenario was accounted for in the plan.

Planning Commissioner Arkady Faktorovich said he was not impressed with the portion of the plan addressing the reduction of cars on the road. Faktorovich said he doesn't believe Fell understands the issue.

"I know we have a state law. I don't have a high opinion of the state," he said. "I cannot understand why MCAG is involving itself in stuff it shouldn't be involved in. This whole scenario doesn't compute. You don't even know the essence of this plan, where it came from, what's the reason of it."

Fell will hold four workshops on the plan this month across the county. A draft plan will be available for review in November. The MCAG is scheduled to adopt it in March.

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